As the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship comes to the nation’s capital, there are many women’s hockey heroes that have helped to carve the city’s sporting history. Calling Ottawa, Ont., her adopted hometown, Katie Weatherston is one of those great heroes.
With her career having ended abruptly due to concussion, Weatherston still yearns to participate in the game she loves. The women’s world championship in Ottawa has certainly ignited her enthusiasm for the game.
I am promoting it through my hockey school,” Weatherston, who is originally from Thunder Bay, Ont., said recently while taking in some sledge hockey at her second home – the rink. “I would like to see the rinks packed, and I’ve got my tickets. Although I enjoy watching, I would much rather be playing.”
Still recovering from a head injury, the stoic Weatherston copes with post-concussion syndrome with a quiet dignity. “I was first injured at a Team Canada training camp. I re-injured it again at a practice in Ottawa. It is getting a little better each year,” she said at the Canadian International Hockey Academy Athletics and Events Centre in Rockland, Ont., located just outside of Ottawa.
Despite a promising career that reached its twilight too soon, the experiences are highly cherished by Weatherston. “It is a lucky experience to win Olympic gold (2006) and world championship gold (2007). As a rookie in 2006, I was the only player who made the team that had never gone to a world championship. It is pretty rare.”
In reflecting on her experience with Canada’s National Women’s Team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, Weatherston has fond memories. “There is no higher pinnacle to reach than an Olympic gold medal. Personally, my biggest challenge was making the Olympic team. To represent your country and win in the Olympics is great,” she said.
“You don’t get paid a lot of money, but no money in the world can equal playing for your country in the Olympics,” Weatherston added. “ It is one of the greatest things to desire to compete at that level. That is what we live for.”
Along with a successful hockey school, she is also a certified teacher and real estate agent. The multi-talented Weatherston finds great joy in helping to instruct children.
“I do a lot in the community, such as teaching kids how to play hockey, and I do motivational speaking,” she said. “My most favourite thing to do is working with kids and speaking with them. I was running a team clinic this morning in Kemptville."
“My passion lies in coaching and running the clinics. I have overcome such big obstacles. The kids love it when I bring my gold medal and the Olympic torch. Each kid gets a picture with it and they are on cloud nine. I want to educate as many kids as I can and motivate them.”
With so many young players on Canada’s National Women’s Team aiming to attend their first Winter Olympic Games at Sochi 2014, Weatherston is quick to acknowledge the importance of gaining valuable experience at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
“It is important to get that under their belts. They are going to have a great experience and there is nothing like winning in Canada,” she said. “I did it in 2007 (when Winnipeg hosted the women’s worlds), and it was awesome.”
After Torino 2006, Weatherston also competed for Ottawa in the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League), and the succeeding CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League). With the Ottawa franchise having folded in 2010, Weatherston hopes the league will return to the capital city in the future.
“A big city like Ottawa should be able to put together a team. With teams in Toronto and Montreal, it keeps those teams strong and makes it an easier commute. I would like to see a team come back,” she said. “There are two local teams in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (Nepean Wildcats and Ottawa Senators) that are getting strong. In the future, it would be good to see a team reintroduced.”
Weatherston extols all the qualities of a great leader. In coping with an injury that is all too common in hockey, she still has the courage and character to give back to her community. Employing great acumen, she is a role model for a group of young girls who hope to comprise the next generation of women’s hockey heroes.